I’m trying to be inspired and getting my writing back, but it’s taking a while. So in the meantime I thought I’d share this post for you. I wrote it just over a year ago on my old blog, and it gives a glimpse into what I do in Central Asia, and why.
Self Immolation is the act of setting oneself on fire, normally with the purpose of ending one’s life. As with all suicidal means, it is also used as a way of escaping their current life, or as a cry for help.
Self Immolation is a common issue among women in this country. I am told that across the country cases seem to be lessening, over the past few years, as women’s rights increase and more freedoms are given.
Women who survive and are treated in the various burns units across the country often tell tales of how they were unhappy with their standard of living. Forced marriages, domestic violence, abuse from in-laws, being forced to stay inside the home, lack of access to education, extreme poverty, all these are given (often combined) as reasons for the suicide attempt.
I often go to visit organized groups of poor women in their homes as part of my work here. The other day I went to one of these groups and one staff member noticed that one of the ladies (We’ll call her Obeda) was missing, we asked after her and this is the story that was given to us:
“Obeda died last week. She was very upset with her life, she was not given permission to do anything, coming to this group was the only time she could leave her house. Her husband would be very angry at her, and if she did something wrong he would hit her. Her life was very difficult, and she was sad. One day X and I heard her scream, it was the daytime and I knew her husband was at work. I ran to her compound and when I went through the door I could smell the diesel, I saw fire on her body, then X came into the compound too. We fetched water and put it on Obeda but her burns were very bad. We took her to the hospital, the doctor said she was very ill. The next day she died.”
I had never met Obeda, but some of my colleagues had, she was a young women, late 20’s. I am told that she was always eager to learn, and that the group was where she found her identity and breathing space.
Stories like that of Obeda are far too common here, the issues she faced in life, and the way she chose self immolation to end it. This is one of the reasons I do the work I do, to help women realize their rights, to help them be able to discuss issues of domestic violence, forced marriages, lack of education, to teach them how to cope with emotional stresses, to diffuse conflicts in the household, to try and break the cycle of some of the negative things, and to reenforce and encourage the many positive aspects. To work to bring joy, hope, and freedom.
If you’d like to know more about projects and ministries that help these kinds of women, please contact me. Details can be found on the “Welcome” page.
How does one week turn into one year?
I don’t know, but it has. I remember that day as though it was yesterday, I remember the few days leading up to it. Oh the turmoil, do I go, do I stay. And then a month later, where do I go next? Oh how my heart raced, my stomach churned, my mind ran, my eyes wept. My whole body and soul shook as I tried to be still, listen, and discern what it was my Father wanted me to to, and then to summon the courage to do it.
Oh those two days, separated by a month. Those two decisions, some of the hardest I’ve had to make. Read about it here.*
A year ago today I was evacuated from my home, I flew away from my friends, family, job, home, life. I flew into nothing, a country I barely knew, to a sea of strangers, to a hotel, no home, to hospitals and doctors and a whole world I had never entered into before in my life. It would only be a week I was told… it was what I had clung to when I had to choose to allow them to take me out.
A month later I was being flown out again, only I wasn’t returning to everything I knew. I was moving on again, to nothing, to more doctors and hospitals. I had wonderful friends and familiar faces waiting to greet me, but the other faces, familiar as they were, were distant memories from years past, a person I used to be knew who they used to be, but those characters they had changed and no-one really knew each other any more.
Time passed and as it did, and as it dragged, I felt betrayed, I didn’t understand. I wrote about it here.
Now one year on, I can hardly believe the journey I’ve been on. I can hardly believe I am STILL here, in this country, in this place. It feels like just another day on this long and uncertain journey. Still unknowing where I’m headed, when I’m headed. Still not really knowing what this is all about. Just another day trusting, and living. Yet it seems wrong to not mark this day. To not set up an alter at this one year anniversary and say the journey has been long, the journey had been hard, but God has been faithful, and God is still good, and God is still God.
Yes it is true, this year has not been pretty. I have wept more than I care to think about. I have grieved in ways I did not know it was possible to grieve. I have felt darkness that I did not know existed. I have despaired, I have been ready to give up on it all. I have doubted, I have been angry, I have lost trust, I have been oh so unfaithful. All of me in the past year has been ugly, weak, disgusting. But God, God has been beautiful, faithful, redeeming, strong.
God has always provided in every way. My father, he has loved me in all my ugliness and in all my unfaithfulness. My saviour, he has saved me from despair, he has picked me up when I’ve fallen, He has helped me hold on when I was ready to let go. My God has turned up every single time when I thought I couldn’t take one more step.
My God, has been God. He has been in control, He has had a purpose, and He has taught me, and He has walked with me,and He has carried me.
So on this day, this one year on, I want to mark this place, set up my Ebenezer, built and alter, and say My God He is good, and He is faithful. He has been my help, my hope, my lifeline, my only purpose for waking and breathing. I have no words, simply a thank you that bursts from my heart for all He has done.
* Photo Credit : The Creative Spirit
I’m struggling to write this post. There’s a battle going on inside me. To write of loss, of struggle, of hardship, of pain, of grief, of despair. Or to write of peace, of faithfulness, of provision, of joy, of growth, of praise. I suppose to appreciate the second list you must first acknowledge that the first is also very real, and very much in existence.
Because I have lost, I have known comfort.
Because I have struggled, I have found true strength
Because I have known hardships, I have seen provision.
Because I have felt pain, I have also tasted restoration and healing.
Because I have grieved, I appreciate joy and have learnt how to choose it.
Because I have been in despair, I know the wonder and amazement of new hope.
A year ago today this bout of illness began. I had no idea then how serious it was, how far it would go, how long it would endure, nor the journey it would take me on. I can hardly believe it’s been a whole year, though the days and the months have dragged, although I have been lost in it all, the year has flown by. And oh, what a journey it has been. What I have learnt, and experienced; how I have grown, and changed; and the things I now know because of it.
I never would have planned my past year. I don’t believe anyone in their right mind would have planned such a year. And although I feel writing about the pain, the struggle, the grief, the tough times would be more captivating; the truth is all that pales in comparison to the comfort, strength, love, and faithfulness I have been able to know. It is so much more intimate to be carried than to walk beside, and this year, God has been carrying me, each day, each hour.
I wonder if this will continue on such a level for another year. Certainly that is what the doctors have braced me for. Yes, the thought of it it hard, yes it saddens me, yes I wonder what is going on. Yet I have a deep peace, for I have known His faithfulness. I know that on this long journey He has taught me invaluable lessons, He has given me humbling grace to endure, He has given me unspeakable joy, He has loved me so well, He has used this for good. He has been faithful, and I know He will continue to be so.
So as I sit and wonder about the year ahead, fear no longer grips me as it did in the past. Instead I am braced for horror, yet expectant for and curious to see the ways in which God will teach me, grow me, love me, and reveal Himself to me. I am excited to see how He will use these next 365 days, how He will make beauty out of ashes, for I know He will.
As I reflect on my doctors consultations this past week my reaction surprises me. I am not filled with grief, and fear, and the desire to call it quits; as I know I would have been in the past. My soul is not angry, nor is it eager to run from the one person who will save me; as it would have been even months ago. Instead I know peace, I am curious, and I am expectant. My heart is heavy yet it rests its burden on the one who carries me. My soul asks of God in a willing and eager way, what now? What’s the plan? My spirit is expectant for the ways in which my life will become richer in being more intimate with my saviour.
My reaction is strange even to myself. That is when I realize what a journey this year has indeed been. I am full of praise for the one who turns these destructive flames into refining fires, for the one who saves and loves, the one who remains faithful.